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Hospitals relying on travel nurses amid coronavirus surge

Updated: Jan. 13, 2021 at 5:42 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As coronavirus cases climb across the country, many hospitals are heavily relying on travel nurses to help with the influx in patients.

In the Baton Rouge area, hospitals have been hiring travel nurses since the start of the pandemic to have more nurses to take care of their patients and sometimes they are even used as the main staff if a nurse gets sick.

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The main issue local hospitals are having is keeping them around.

“But now the pandemic is throughout the country, they have their choice of where they go and many of them are going for the increased dollar rate of pay, but that is the biggest struggle we have is having nurses at the bedside to take care of those patients,” said Monica Nijoka, chief nursing officer at BRG.

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Travel nurses are in high demand right now with the latest COVID spike, and hospitals are willing to do anything to keep them.

One Louisiana travel nurse, Rustin Arcement says this pandemic is something he has never seen before, “It’s been super busy, I’d never thought I would be working through a pandemic.”

Arcement has been an ER nurse five and half years, he is currently working at a hospital in California which has been a hot spot for coronavirus cases.

“A lot of hospitals are counting on travel nurses especially with the increase number of cases that are coming to the ER and to the hospital. You know, it’s hard to staff that whenever you’re used to staffing with a certain amount of nurses, and then you have an influx in patients…you don’t have enough nurses to take care of them,” adds Arcement.

It’s been a competition for hospitals during the pandemic. Travel nurses are meant to be the extra staff, but now they have to step up if multiple nurses become sick. Local hospitals in the Baton Rouge area have been recruiting traveling nurses to help with the increase in hospitalizations, but they are hoping to keep them on since COVID is not slowing down.

“We’re not unlike any hospitals in this region hiring the agency nurses, but there is so much pandemic throughout the country. They have their choice of where they go. So, hopefully we’ll see some relief. The agency nurses usually have off Christmas and the New Year holidays, and hopefully they will come back and sign up to work with us,” says Nijoka.

Local did says that they are increasing payment incentives to keep their travel nurses around. Meanwhile, nurse agencies are still hiring and looking for more nurses to help out hospitals during the pandemic.

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